Fifty Years of Memories
From the Archives of The Tico Times

The Tico Times, Costa Rica's English language newspaper, has been reporting on the annual Independence Day picnic from the beginning. Each year, the paper publishes a special 4th of July supplement full of information about the festivities, and this description of the picnic's history is adapted from the story that appeared in the 2010 supplement. (Also, be sure to see this delightful story about the 1965 picnic, published by the paper in 2015.)
The 2010 Independence Day celebration marked the 50th year that the American Colony Committee, a local group of public- spirited U.S. citizens, has organized and sponsored this patriotic event.

Sponsorship of the picnic has been a 100 percent private affair since 1961, having been paid for entirely by donations from U.S. citizens, picnic guests and members of the business community in Costa Rica.

The U.S. Embassy formerly hosted the annual Independence Day fiesta, and the first picnics – held at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in the western San José suburb of Escazú – were attended by small crowds of the relatively few U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica at that time, with Uncle Sam picking up the tab.

But during the late 1950s, the U.S. community here was mushrooming so fast, and the Independence Day Picnic had become so popular, that embassy personnel could no longer handle the affair. It was then that the late Jack Fendell headed up a small group of old- timers to form the American Colony Committee, which came to the rescue of what by that time had become a favorite local tradition. The committee has been operating the annual bash ever since.

Many of the picnic’s traditions – the hot dogs and cotton candy, the games, the flag ceremony and the magical appearance of Uncle Sam – are the same today as they were in 1955, and many parents and grandparents of children taking part in the fun and games today remember doing the same things themselves in the same gala atmosphere five decades ago.

In 1992, Jack Fendell stepped down after heading committee activities for 31 years. He was unanimously voted permanent chairman emeritus, and his son James took over as chairman until 2003, when he became honorary past president.

Susan Tessem now heads the committee, and they are again working hard to makes this special 50th year event the best ever. [In 2011 Lynda Solar took over the position of American Colony Committee chairman and Charles Turner now serves as chairman.]
For the special 50th anniversary, staff of The Tico Times searched their archives to produce this exceptional pictorial history of the Independence Day picnic.

The slideshow will begin to play automatically once the photos have loaded (and don't worry about missing any photos while you read the story above; the slideshow will start again at the beginning once the last photo has been displayed.) To pause at a particular photo, just move your mouse cursor over it; the show will resume when you move your mouse cursor away from the photos.




  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • Jim Fendell, second president of the American Colony Committee and son of its founder“July
  • “July
  • Former Residence of the US Ambassador, the picnic's original site“July
  • “July
  • José (Don Pepe) Figueres, legendary former President of Costa Rica“July
  • “July
  • “July
  • Jack Fendell, Founder of the American Colony Committee“July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • Phillip and Alice Raines“July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • Jack Fendell, Founder of the American Colony Committee“July
  • “July
  • “July
  • Roberto Rojas, former Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Relations“July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “July
  • “Susan
© The Tico Times. All photographs in this gallery were generously provided by The Tico Times and are used with their permission.
We have more Galleries with photos from more recent years of the picnic, including the grand 50th Anniversary celebration. Click here to see them.